Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is changing up the Origins formula even more, and in great ways too

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If you were worried that Assassin’s Creed going back to an annual cycle would mean only slight iterative changes to the series again, Odyssey is an attempt to dissuade these fears. Despite bearing the familiar changes that Origins introduced last year, Odyssey feels and looks uniquely distinct enough from this new ear of Assassin’s Creed games to make it feel like the proper sequel it’s being pitched as. New mechanics surrounding naval combat, melee skirmishes and more role-playing elements elevate the already strong new formula into a new space and one that Ubisoft feels very confident in slipping into.

Primary to Odyssey’s new tale is its two new protagonists. Both Alexios and Kassandra are available to choose from the outset of the game, and that choice was present during our one and a half hour long session with the game this week too. I didn’t hesitate in choosing Kassandra, given that the last time we got to play as a female protagonist was all the way back in Syndicate. My choice didn’t take long to reveal itself as the correct one either. Kassandra is a bold and strong Spartan warrior, commanding her position during several side quests and stealing the show in numerous conversations. She’s sassy too, presenting dialogue options that allowed me to get very, well, direct with a certain Athenian officer. She’s the sort of character I’d love good old Ezio to meet, and certainly a highlight in Odyssey thus far.

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Choices are new to the Assassin’s Creed franchise here, but the dialogue options on display didn’t present a large sense of directing the flow of gameplay. One instance had me siding with one of two characters, which should’ve determined my path forward in their multi-stage quest. But both quests remained open following the conversation, letting me walk back on whatever I said in the heat of the moment. Perhaps that’s forgiving, but it just diluted any sense of consequence for my actions.

The quests themselves aren’t exceptionally layered, but they do maintain the fun core loop of Assassin’s Creed gameplay that Origins established so well. One early on in the sessions tasked me with hunting down three tough generals on the island of Mykonos, with each taking up a spot in a well-fortified enemy camp. Sneaking into these sections remains fun, with a blend of stealth and direct combat that’s easy to slip in and out of. It’s still far more engaging to try and clear everyone out without being seen, but it’s good that the direct approach is more than viable.

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Combat retains the same slower pace as Origins, but with a few twists to lean into the role-playing feel of Odyssey. Kassandra tosses aside a shield for a new parry move, which needs to be timed correctly for a brief moment of slow-motion to unleash a flurry of attacks. The same goes for a well-timed dodge, which should be familiar to anyone who spent hours with Bayek. Combat is all about knowing both your reach and timing of your attacks, and it feels as every bit as deliberate and challenging as last year. Tougher, more numerically powerful enemies won’t take long to cut you down to size, while a group of enemies will make moving around a small space incredibly challenging. It helps then that Kassandra had a few tricks up her sleeve to alleviate this stress.

Mapped to the four face buttons, Kassandra brandished a few new abilities that could be used in a fight to help even the odds. Two were simple stat boosts, with one augmenting my blade with power to deal out more damage, and another allowing me to regain a large portion of health. My favourite had to be a “THIS IS SPARTA” type kick that put enemies off balance and susceptible to powerful attacks. It felt satisfying to use and often far too strong, which just played into a large power fantasy Odyssey had me under already. A final ability allowed me to quickly disarm enemies of their shields, which was important for not getting too closed in during a fight.

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Naval combat makes a return in Odyssey too, and the particularly close-quarters nature of the Greek fleets here transform it into a more frantic and fast-paced affair too. I was able to empty a sprint bar that propelled my ship forward in combat, bashing enemy vessels head on to send them to a watery grave below. A series of normal and fire arrows and spears dealt damage from afar, with Odyssey streamlining the act of aiming and shooting in a way that makes Black Flag seem overly complex. It was just fun to pillage ships on the high seas, as I frequently hopped between both Dalos and Mykonos without a single hitch in sight.

These two islands both felt distinct from one another, but there’s one aspect that truly makes Odyssey pop: its colour. There’s clearly a lot of attention being poured into the array of visually pleasing elements you can see on a screen at once. Deep red flowers pepper open green fields and bright whites and blues populate bustling sea-side markets. Odyssey is bursting with personality around every corner, and its stunning presentation makes me want to chew on its Greek setting for hours more.

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If anything, this taste of Odyssey tantalized my hunger for more Assassin’s Creed after Origins, despite my previous apprehension for Ubisoft to start churning them out again after just one year off. But if this is an indication of the sort of innovative cadence they want to continue hitting, there’s a lot to look forward to this coming October.

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Last Updated: June 14, 2018

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff's a bastard.

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